The Saints have been checking out some of the quarterback talent entering this year's draft hoping to find their heir apparent to 38 years young Drew Brees. What if the team instead looked to a young free agent in need of a fresh start. No, I'm not talking about Colin Kapernick...think even more controversial:
Sources: #Saints coach Sean Payton & Johnny Manziel were spotted together Super Bowl week, at breakfast. They discussed a return to football
Rapport believes it would make a lot of sense for Brees to mentor Manziel. Johnny Football was released from the Cleveland Browns a year ago and spent the entire 2016 season out of football. If he does make a comeback, Manziel still has to serve a 4 game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. The 2014 22nd overall pick back will turn 25 years old in December.
Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic has confirmed Yates tweet. This could be a sign that the team is gaining room to sign Patriots restricted free agent Malcolm Butler to a deal. The cornerback caused a bit of a stir with his post on Instagram yesterday since he's wearing Black & Gold.
His message is vague, causing many fans to have different interpretations. If Butler is headed to New Orleans the biggest question is what compensation are the Saints sending back to New England. Will it be the 11th overall pick or a different package the two sides were able to agree upon?
The Saints' spicy offseason is getting even hotter as the Malcolm Butler tension mounts. The restricted free agent came to town and left. NFL Networks' Ian Rapoport indicates the courting process is likely to continue:
#Patriots CB Malcolm Butler's visit to #Saints ended. Source close to him said it went well. No deal yet. The sides motivated to get it done
The Texans were mentioned as another team who had interest in Butler, but nothing has yet to surface about him heading to Houston for a visit.
If the restricted free agent signed a offer sheet from New Orleans and New England didn't match, the compensation the Saints would have to send to the Patriots would be the 11th overall pick in this year's draft. That does not mean it has to go down like that, though. The two sides can work around they want to. We know Sean and Bill have a good rapport and respect one another from the numerous joint practice sessions during recent training camps. They also have mutual disgust for the commish, and that can be a pretty strong bond.
Ultimately, I think somehow, some way, Malcolm Butler will soon be getting fitted for a Saints uniform.
If the Saints can work out a long term deal with the 27 year old and New England doesn't match it, New Orleans would have to send their 11th overall pick to New England. There are ways to work around that, though, if both franchises want to.
Butler would have to sign his tendered deal with the Pats first, and then they could trade him to the Saints. It's very likely New England could get back the first round pick (32nd overall) they dealt to the Saints for Brandin Cooks, but New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis will surely try and finesse a package with their 2nd round selection instead. I would expect something to be finalized today; and, in the end, Butler will get a deal that pays him on average between $10-12 million a season.
WWL's Saints sideline reporter Kristian Garic has independently confirmed the news.
Okafor is signing a 1 year deal worth $3 million. He was selected in the 4th round by the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. The pass rusher has tallied 13.5 sacks in his 4 year career but was dealing with a torn bicep in the AZ desert last season. He provides depth at the very least for the Black & Gold, who just saw Kasim Edebali sign with the Denver Broncos. Okafor is 6'4, 264lbs and is reunited with Texas alumnus Kenny Vaccaro.
Lombardi is a former NFL executive, so he has a vast number of connections. New England is said to be considering trading cornerback Malcolm Butler while Tennessee has two 1st round draft picks and may be willing to part with either the 5th or 18th overall selection.
It appears the Super Bowl champs have very high interest in Brandion Cooks. After being reportedly shot down last week for the 32nd overall pick in the draft, Bill Belichick and the Pats front office have fired a counter back:
The New England Patriots are considering trading Malcolm Butler to the New Orleans Saints for Brandin Cooks per sources
Butler is a 27 year old cornerback that seems to have become expendable for New England after they have inked free agent Stephon Gilmore early this morning. Stay tuned for more details as this story continues to develop.
This continues our four part series on position groups the Saints are targeting in Free Agency. Check out our Saints Free Agent HQ for breakdowns of the LB, DE, and CB targets for the team.
The Saints may take a dip in the free agency waters to sure up their offensive line for 2017. Protecting Drew Brees is always a top priority. The guard position is the biggest question for the Black & Gold since Jahri Evans and Tim Lelito are both unrestricted free agents. Some options for the team to court include:
Kevin Zeitler – 6ft4, 315 lbs. - 27 years old
Zeitler is the top offensive lineman on the market and should easily command 11-12 million a season. He gave up just 1 sack last year in Cincinnati and is one of the best run blockers in the NFL. Beefing up the o-line is never a "sexy" offseason move but if the Saints were able to land this big fish it would be a huge SPLASH.
T.J. Lang – 6ft4, 318 lbs. – 29 years old
According to Pro Football Focus, Lang didn't give up a single sack on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last season, but also didn't even allow a hit! Lang did miss some time in 2016 due to a foot injury and in the offseason opted to have hip surgery which caused him to miss the Pro Bowl. His new deal could average in between the 8-10 million dollar range.
Larry Warford – 6ft3, 333 lbs. – 25 years old
This youngen will turn 26 in June and is line to make around 9-10 million a season. Warford has missed a bit of time over the years; but just one contest this past season though due to a hip injury. Run blocking is his strong suit and has shown a ton of potential when not hurt.
Ronald Leary – 6ft3, 317 lbs. – 27 years old
This Baton Rouge native could end up coming home to Louisiana this offseason for around 5-7 million a year. He has a ton of power packed into his frame, but former LSU Tiger La'el Collins is ahead of him on the Cowboys depth chart. Leary started 12 games in 2016 and allowed no sacks while just getting flagged 4 times.
This begins our four part series on position groups the Saints are targeting in Free Agency. Check out our Saints Free Agency HQ throughout the week for breakdowns of the LB, DE, and G targets for the team.
The Saints defense was able to show slight improvement last year but fixing the league's 30th ranked pass defense remains a top priority for 2017.
Sure the lack of a pass rush didn't help but there were also a ton of injuries at the cornerback position. Expected starter Keenan Lewis could never get on the field during training camp and they lost Kyle Wilson and Damian Swann before the season ever started. Kickoff comes and then PJ Williams and Devlin Breaux go down leaving newbies Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris to be thrust into action. Veterans B.W. Webb and Sterling Moore were brought in and provided some pretty solid play as well as a positive presence in the locker room. Both of those vets are unrestricted free agents but could return as role players.
The Saints may also opt to do a little high priced corner shopping in free agency. Here are 4 upper tier targets they could pursue:
A.J. Bouye 6ft, 191 lbs. - This 26 year old came out of nowhere to post a Pro Bowl season for the Houston Texans and now looks to cash in. Is he a shut-down corner on the rise or a one-year wonder? He showed a solid ability to break up passes and is a good tackler. It is believed that Bouye could command around $12 million a year on his new deal.
Stephon Gilmore 6ft1, 190 lbs. - This former 1st rounder should see top dollar on the open market and is likely shuffling on off from Buffalo. He was drafted 10th overall by the Bills in 2012 and will look to cash in with a contender. Gilmore tallied 5 interceptions last year and even managed to pick off Brees at the Pro Bowl.
*The Saints may want to steer clear of this guy though given their past history with FAs who came from Buffalo (see Jairus Byrd & CJ Spiller…but then again Jabri Greer)
Logan Ryan 5ft11, 194 lbs. – Sean Payton and his staff have had a chance to take a good look at this 26 year old over the last 2 seasons of joint training camp practices with the Patriots. Ryan has played outside or in the slot for New England and recorded 11 passes defended with 2 INTs this past year. His ability to line up at multiple positions along with being a solid tackler make him a tempting target to try and lure from Emperor Bellichik's reign.
Prince Amukamara 6ft, 202 lbs. – This royal defender signed a one year contact with the Jaguars last year and proved he's still got "it" despite a number of previous injuries while with the Giants. Amukamara's speed and coverage skills could be a nice addition along with his veteran presence if New Orleans decides to not re-sign Webb or Moore.
Safety has recently become a bigger need for this Black & Gold ballclub with the ending of the Jairus Byrd experience after 3 years. The Byrdman's time in New Orleans finishes with 33 games played in which he forced 2 fumbles and added 3 interceptions. Now, Vonn Bell, who is entering year 2, would be the guy starting with Kenny Vaccaro. That may prompt the Saints to add a more veteran presence for the free safety spot.
D.J. Swearinger 5ft10, 205 lbs. – He racked up 2 sacks, 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed last season in Arizona. Swearinger was initially drafted in the 2nd round by Houston in 2013 but never lived up to expectations until this past season with the Cardinals. Maybe it was a product of the system in the dessert but still entering his prime at 25 years old.
Bradley McDougald 6ft1, 209 lbs. – Started all 16 games for Tampa last year and logged 91 tackles, 10 passes defended and two interceptions. Has shown improvement every year in the NFL since going undrafted out of Kansas in 2013. New Orleans staff pretty familiar with him having to play the Bucs twice a year.
They're baaaaack! The All-Star break is OVAH and the Pelicans return to action to host the Houston Rockets. It’s been quite some time since there has been this much excitement over the Pels playing. The team is 11 games under .500 but it’s the addition of DeMarcus Cousin that has folks anxious to see if the newly formed “Big Easy Big 3” can rally for a playoff push.
Cousins joins Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday in the quest to achieve the eighth seed in the Western Conference; which is currently 2.5 games out of reach with 25 games left to play in the regular season.
2.5 games may not seem like a lot of ground to make up, but some have estimated the team needs to win 15 of their remaining games to have a shot at a spot in the postseason. The "Voice of the Pelicans" Joel Meyers feels that total needs to be even high.
"You not only have to catch Denver, but there are a couple of other teams between you and Denver," Myers said. "You're 3 back in the loss column, you are bunched in with a few other teams that you've got to hop over and I think you have to be north of 15-10. More like 18 wins."